Article Display

Airman honors Native American heritage, Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ireland Summers
  • 377 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the distance, children dance to music and their laughter echoes in the wind. The beating of drums vibrates the ground and the hearts of spectators. The strong smell of the gathered nation’s cultural food fills the air.

Nations of tribes will gather together to share experiences, laughter and their culture at the largest Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in the United States and North America, April 28-30, 2022.

At Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, many service members and civilian employees are Native American, which is one reason why U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Darrell R. Charlee, 58th Special Operations Wing client systems operations noncommissioned officer in charge, and 100% Dine/Navajo native, reached out to a Gathering of Nations point of contact to see how Team Kirtland could be involved at the event.

 “Every tribe has their own ceremonies,” said Charlee. “For the Gathering of Nations, the Pow Wow represents the gathering of all of the nations, because every tribe is a sovereign nation.”

Charlee added that there are several natives that work and live on KAFB.

“I have a lot of family on base, and with the clan system I am also related to a lot of other natives that work on base,” said Charlee. “This is the culture of the area.”

Charlee has served in the Air Force for 15 years, continuing his family’s legacy in the armed forces. He also proudly shares his native heritage with his brothers and sisters in arms.

“I like to [remind] the people that Native Americans are still here,” said Charlee. “We’re not forgotten. We’re not in the past. We’re still alive and thriving now and working among military personnel on base.”

At the end of the event, the Gourd Dance is played, honoring warriors of past and present.

“This dance is specifically for people who have served or are serving in the military,” said Charlee. “Seeing everybody that has been in the same experience as I have makes me happy. We’re still here and we’re still fighting for our land.”

Charlee coordinated for more than 50 members of Team Kirtland to volunteer at the upcoming event. During their shifts, they will help guests find their seats, assist guests in wheelchairs and work with the event volunteer coordinator.

Airmen can attend the 39th Annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow at the Tingley Coliseum, Albuquerque, New Mexico. To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, visit